When writing historical fiction, how much should your dialogue reflect the actual historical period you are writing about? Is it a good idea to write — as say — a knight during the medieval period might actually speak, or write in more contemporary language for the reader?
My personal thoughts are it’s good practice to use a blend of both. You want your dialogue to sound authentic but not at the expense the reader must make in trying to understand it. Bernard Cornwell, in my opinion, does an excellent job of creating dialogue that seems authentic and styled to the period, but still written in a way that is easy to read.
Obviously, if you’re writing medieval historical fiction, you wouldn’t want to write your dialogue in Middle English. If you’ve ever tried to read through the Cantebury Tales, you’ll understand why. I do think it’s a good idea to understand how the people of that period might have spoken, so reading contemporary sources can help you — as the writer –understand and learn the various words and phrases people of that period might have used. You can then intermix some of this language throughout your story.
What are your thoughts?